MDE1241 - Prehistoric settlement and field system in the Valley of Rocks (Monument)


A prehistoric field system, hut circles and two encloures in the Valley of Rocks, visible both on aerial photographs and on the ground as extant earthworks.

Please read the Exmoor National Park Historic Environment Record .

Type and Period (4)

Protected Status

Full Description

Hut Circles are depicted as stones at SS 7046 4963, and depicted as pecked lines at SS7049 4969, SS7051 4966, SS7052 4967 and SS 7061 4970. [1,2] Two enclosures and a field system in the Valley of Rocks. It is suggested that early writers may have made conclusions with little supporting evidence for hut circles in the Valley of Rocks, but if megalithic monuments did exist they were almost totally destroyed in the 19th Century. There remains one roughly circular stone built enclosure, which might be of any date from the prehistoric to the 18th century. [3] The Valley of Rocks is a deep seaward facing re-entrant, well sheltered except from the southwest. The valley bottom is from 200 metres to 300 metres wide and, though rock strewn and bracken-covered, incorporates a fragmentary Celtic type field system of approximately 9 hectares in extent, centred at SS 70664963. It is visible on the ground as 0.4 metre high banks of small stones with earthfast uprights, and is clear on Ordnance Survey aerial photograph 72/065/024. Two circular pounds which may have contained or adjoined hut circles can be traced at SS 7046 4964 and SS 7061 4970. Both are in poor condition, but have an overall diameter of 17.0 metres and are of double wall construction 0.4 metres high with no traceable entrance. They are not of modern origin as suggested by Grinsell. There are no signs of the three smaller features depicted on the Ordnance Survey Second Edition, but these may well have been hut circles. Near the valley floor on the south-east side at least four scooped platforms are traceable but these do not abut field walls and could represent areas of stone robbing. There is no doubt that a settlement existed in the valley but the recognition of hut sites requires the complete clearance of bracken. Resurveyed at 1:2500. [4,5] The field system is clearly visible on aerial photographs, and on the ground it shows as lines of large stones and boulders, with traces of earth banks. No hut circles were located. [7] SS 7061 4959. The denuded remains of a prehistoric settlement and contemporary field system in the Valley of Rocks, Lynton. The Valley of Rocks, also known as The Danes [1], is an impressive dry valley, the result of dismemberment by coastal cliff recession of a once more extensive East Lyn River [18]. It runs in an east to west direction and its steep sides are covered by scree, heather, bracken and gorse. The surviving features lie across the lower slopes of the southern side of the valley. The settlement consists of the remains of two circular enclosures (A and B) and the fragments of probable hut circles (C to F), all constructed from the plentiful supply of boulder scree. A. (SS 7061 4971) Set into the north-facing slope, this structure is now in a poor condition, especially the eastern side. It appears to have been about 20 metres diameter internally. The much robbed wall, some 3 metres wide and up to 0.5 metres high, is constructed of inner and outer faces of large boulders, infilled with smaller stone rubble. Some of the stones are set on edge, especially around the outer west side, but most have now fallen. No definite entrance is visible, but a lowering of the wall on the downhill northwest side suggests it was most probably here. A heightening of the uphill southeastern side of the interior may indicate the site of a platform for two or three huts though only a few scattered stones now survive. In the northeast debris from the wall is much spread and there are ill defined fragments of crude modern walling. This feature was most probably a settlement enclosure or stock pound. B. (SS 7047 4964) This enclosure is also set into the slope and is almost identical in construction and condition to enclosure A. It is much smaller being 14 metres in diameter within a boulder faced rubble wall 3 metres wide and up to 0.7 metres high. Again a lowering of the wall in the northwest suggests an original entrance. C. (SS 7066 4967) An oval platform, 9 metres east to west by 7.5 metres internally, and levelled into the slope with occasional large boulders visible probably a hut circle. As well as the two enclosures (A and B), the 1st Edition Ordnance Survey map [1] also depicts three circular features (D, E and F), shown by pecks of 11 metres, 6 metres and 10 metres diameters respectively. They are annotated 'Hut Circles' and may be contemporaneous. D. (SS 7049 4969) This has been cut through by a modern roundabout and all that is now discernible are a few stones, probably the remains of its east side. E. (SS 7051 4966) This is a turf and bracken covered mound of stones about 5 metres in diameter and 0.5 metres maximum height. It is defined by stones set on edge mainly around the northwest. It appears as a small burial cairn or field clearance heap, but it might have originally been a hut that has since been infilled with stone. F. (SS 7052 4967). All that is visible here are a few amorphous stones some set on edge and a scarp on the south side of the area alongside the footpath. The origin and function of this feature is uncertain. The field system (centred at SS 7060 4958) covers about 10 hectares of the steep slopes to the south and east of the huts. The field boundaries run predominantly north-south, up and down the slope, with fragments of cross walls roughly at right angles forming long rectangular field walls constructed out of the scree; they are up to 3 metres wide and 0.7 metres high where best preserved. Some are evident as stone crested lynchets up to 1 metre wide and 0.7 metres deep, and others are barely discernible scarps and vegetation lines. Even more boundaries are visible on aerial photographs [5] up the slopes to the southwest (area centred SS 7058 4946), but this area is under dense vegetation. The evidence suggests that these features represent the remnants of a settlement and associated field system of prehistoric origin. Surveyed at 1:2500. [8-9] Surveyed at 1:1000 scale with GPS; selected huts surveyed at 1:200 scale, February 1999. Field banks are mainly located on the unusually steep north facing slopes, but can be seen to continue across the valley floor, predominantly north to south, with only small sections of cross walling now evident. Lower field banks, around the area of settlement are considerably more substantial in construction than the field banks on the higher slopes. This may suggest a more sustained use of land in that area, with larger banks as a result of more prolonged field clearance. Twelve cairns were recorded on the site; teo burial cairns, and the remainder clearance cairns. The settlement was surveyed at 1:1000 scale with GPS, and selected huts were surveyed at 1:200 scale. [10-12, 17, 21-22] Bronze Age hut circles and a field system in the Valley of Rocks to the west of Lynton. [14] The enclosures A and B, plus elements of the field system described above have also been identified and transcribed during the Exmoor National Park National Mapping Programme survey. Significant new elements have also been added to the known southern extent of the field system, extending the area of this settlement to approximately 20 hectares. A possible oval enclosure, approximately 13 metres long and 10 metres wide, has been identified on the upper reaches of the valley, at circa SS 70664940, although this may be an artefact of vegetation growth on these steep slopes. Although the hut circles described above were not visible on the available photographs, a possible addition to their number has been recorded at circa SS 70734971, and at almost 5 metres in diameter, it is similar in size to the previously identified examples. [5,15,23] An article dating from 1958 states that "ancient stone circles" had been gradually removed from a wide area within the Valley by farmers and used as gateposts. It is feasible that these stones may have been associated with the features in this area, such as the hut circles. [19] The information described in [19] appears to have originated in a letter written by Charles Bailey in January 1954, writing to the inhabitants of Lynton and Lynmouth in an attempt to persuade them to allow the enclosure of the Valley of Rocks. The letter refers to "the removal of the immense Druidical stones and circles, and the rocks which formed its peculiar and striking interest and beauty, for the purpose of selling them for gateposts" within the last fifty years. The veracity of these claims is difficult to determine, but it has been noted that some early 19th Century topographical prints show a circle of stones at the foot of Castle Rock in the Valley of Rocks; these stones are not there today. [20] This record was enhanced as part of the National Record of the Historic Environment to Exmoor National Park Historic Environment Record data transfer project. [24]

Sources/Archives (23)

  • <1> Map: Ordnance Survey. 1868-1901. County Series; 1st Edition 25 Inch Map. 1:2500. 1888, Devon Sheet 2(12).
  • <2> Map: Ordnance Survey. 1902-1907. County Series, 2nd Edition 25 Inch Map. 1:2500.
  • <3> Monograph: Grinsell, L.V.. 1970. The Archaeology of Exmoor: Bideford Bay to Bridgewater. David and Charles Limited. P.38.
  • <4> Unpublished document: Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division Field Investigators Comments. MJ Fletcher, 13 November 1973.
  • <5> Aerial photograph: Various. Various. Vertical Aerial Photograph. NMR OS/72065 023-024 (15 April 1972).
  • <7> Unpublished document: McDonnell, R.. 1980. Gazetteer of Sites in the Exmoor National Park Identified through Aerial Photography. SS7049A.
  • <8> Technical drawing: Sainsbury, I.. 1993. Lynton and Lynmouth, settlement and field system at SS 74 NW 8/ink survey. 1:2500. Permatrace. Pen and Ink.
  • <9> Unpublished document: Sainsbury, I.S.S. Field Investigators Comments. RCHME Field Investigation, 9 November 1993.
  • <10> Unpublished document: Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England. Field Investigators Comment. R Wilson-North, H Riley and E Jamieson, 16 February 1999.
  • <11> Collection: RCHME Exeter. 1993-1999. Exmoor Project.
  • <12> Report: Jamieson, E.. 1999. The Valley of Rocks, Lynton & Lynmouth, North Devon. RCHME.
  • <13> Report: Berry, N.. 2003. Archaeological and Historical Landscape Survey of West Lyn Farm, Lynton. National Trust Archaeological Survey Report. 2.
  • <14> Report: Berry, N.. 2004. Archaeological and Historic Landscape Survey of Kipscombe Farm, Countisbury. National Trust Archaeological Survey Report. 3.
  • <15> Aerial photograph: Various. Various. Vertical Aerial Photograph. NMR OS/74179 033-035 (18 July 1974).
  • <16> Aerial photograph: Meridian Air Maps. 1977-1978. Infrared False Colour Aerial Photography. MAM/2582.
  • <17> Survey: Wilson-North, R.. 1998. Hut Circle, Valley of Rocks/ Ink Survey. 1:200.
  • <18> Article in monograph: Cullingford, R.A.. 1982. The Quaternary. The Geology of Devon. Durrance, E. + Laming, D.. p 289.
  • <19> Article in serial: 1958. Farmers took stone circles: Lyn Valley of Rocks allegation.
  • <20> Monograph: Gray, T.. 1996. Devon documents. Devon and Cornwall Notes and Queries. 1st Edition. Travis, F.J. "An enclosure dispute at Lynton in 1854". 190-196.
  • <21> Technical drawing: Jamieson, E. and Wilson-North, R.. 1999. Valley of Rocks/ink survey. Permatrace. Pen and Ink.
  • <22> Technical drawing: Jamieson, E. and Wilson-North, R.. 1999. Valley of Rocks/ink survey. Permatrace. Pen and Ink.
  • <23> Archive: 2007-2009. Exmoor National Park NMP: SS 74 NW. MD002173.
  • <24> Digital archive: Historic England. Various. National Record of the Historic Environment (NRHE) entry. 35163, Extant 10 December 2021.

External Links (1)

Other Statuses/References

  • AIP Record Number: E.18.4021
  • Devon SMR Monument ID: 12210
  • Devon SMR Monument ID: 12211
  • Devon SMR Monument ID: 12212
  • Devon SMR: SS74NW/27
  • Exmoor National Park HER Number (now deleted): MDE20263
  • Exmoor National Park HER Number (now deleted): MMO74
  • Local List Status (Proposed)
  • National Monuments Record reference: SS 74 NW8
  • National Park: Exmoor National Park
  • NRHE HOB UID (Pastscape): 35163



Grid reference Centred SS 7063 4954 (587m by 497m) Surveyed
Map sheet SS74NW

Finds (0)

Related Monuments/Buildings (9)

Related Events/Activities (4)

Related Articles (1)

Record last edited

Mar 1 2022 11:49AM


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